Album Review
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive Album Cover

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

Reviewed by
The Hold SteadyStay Positive
Release Date: June 17, 2008 (digitally); July 15, 2008 (physically)
Record Label: Vagrant
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
To have the “perfect” night, you need to make sure you hit all the criteria.

Is the sun setting and is there a light breeze?


Are my closest friends with me and am I drinking my favorite brew?


Is the soundtrack to the perfect night spinning in my stereo?

You can only check this off if said soundtrack is Stay Positive, the fourth studio album from The Hold Steady.

The Brooklyn quintet has a knack for spinning intricate tales of drinking, friendship, the good times and the bad. Vocalist and guitarist Craig Finn is a master at his craft; his vocals are gruff yet inviting, his lyrics deep yet simple. Produced by John Agnello, Stay Positive is eleven tracks chock full of big riffs, beautiful keys, and raw energy throughout.

The album begins with what might be the best song of the summer, the aptly titled “Constructive Summer,” a fast-paced track that gets your buzz going early that tells of wanting to “build something this summer,” while the group vocals urge you to “get hammered.” Personally, I’m most constructive when I’m drinking, so this is right up my avenue. The good times continue with the piano-driven rocker “Sequestered In Memphis.” With its addicting melody and chorus, it’ll be stuck in my head for about as long as a road trip from Texas to Memphis takes.

The Hold Steady musically is as rousing as ever, with some new instruments sprinkled in here and there, such on “One For The Cutters,” a tale woven beautifully by the harpsichord and telling of how ones experiences away from home can change perspective and actions. We get a little banjo on “Both Crosses,” a somber track that touches on religion, and “Navy Sheets” is loud, paced by psyched-out keys played by Franz Nicolay.

The album slows down a bit with the beautifully constructed “Lord, I’m Discouraged.” It’s a lavishing track, encompassing your senses throughout. The title track is one to sing along with and loudly, bursting with “whoa-oh’s” and killer riffs. Finn is frantic behind the mic, as Bobby Drake kills it on drums. “Slapped Actress” closes out Positive, with a jagged riff and Finn pleading with you to keep this one last secret for him.

The Hold Steady are what's right about music today; one of the top five bands currently making music in the entire industry. Lyrically, no one can tell a story like Finn and the music still channels Springsteen with a punk rock and party attitude. You can find flaws in Finn’s vocals, but it’s an acquired taste. And if you’re like me, you’ll find at least one track that you can relate to. Full of soul, optimism, honesty, and empathy, you won’t find much better in 2008, and Stay Positive will definitely be staying atop your Best Of list.

Additional InformationTrack Listing:
1. Constructive Summer
2. Sequestered In Memphis
3. One For The Cutters
4. Navy Sheets
5. Lord, I’m Discouraged
6. Yeah Sapphire
7. Both Crosses
8. Stay Positive
9. Magazines
10. Joke About Jamaica
11. Slapped Actress
Produced by: John Agnello

The Hold Steady are:
Craig Finn – vocals/guitar
Tad Kubler – lead guitar
Franz Nicolay – keyboards/accordion/harmonica
Galen Polivka – bass
Bobby Drake – drums

Buy this now at

Official Myspace; Official Website; Official AP.net Profile

Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 55
02:06 AM on 07/12/08
I was born a wise man
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smoke4thecaper's Avatar
One of my very favorites this year. Beautiful.
02:36 AM on 07/12/08
Registered User
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alcoholandirony's Avatar
A good album, but I think there were a few missteps that Drew didn't hit on. I may write my own review soon...
03:30 AM on 07/12/08
Registered User
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Dagless's Avatar
Good review, this album will definately feature high up my best of 2008 list at the end of the year.
05:00 AM on 07/12/08
"Fuck Armageddon, this is Hell"
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reissgoespunk's Avatar
Still need to check this out.
05:20 AM on 07/12/08
promesas son sombras
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EchoPark's Avatar
Fantastic review Drew. Great symbolism in the description, Couldn't agree with you more.

Great music is so vital to a great night and this album really fits it.
05:42 AM on 07/12/08
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Heart-A-Tact's Avatar
Can't wait to pick this up. Good review.
07:05 AM on 07/12/08
Oh, there's legwork
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james77's Avatar
my album of the year so far
07:14 AM on 07/12/08
Not that easy to confuse
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Poochemist's Avatar
Oh I didn't know it was being digitally released early. I was just gonna get it on Tuesday. Good review, thanks.
07:19 AM on 07/12/08
Highly inappropriate, but funny.
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Lirr168's Avatar
A superb album done justice with a solid review.
07:22 AM on 07/12/08
Andrew Love
Bravos: America's Team
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Andrew Love's Avatar
I have been holding out on listening to this until its physical
07:39 AM on 07/12/08
i'm still here?
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guitarliketom's Avatar
i just.... can't stand his voice.
08:00 AM on 07/12/08
Prison Strength
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hockeyguitar99's Avatar
I like this album a lot but i like Boys and Girls In America better.
08:55 AM on 07/12/08
In December, drinkin' Horchata
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SwishMX48's Avatar
Good review as always, you summed up my thoughts on this album.

I love the Springsteen sound and feel they have, great great summer drinking music.
09:40 AM on 07/12/08
It could be a bowling site.
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bailmeout13's Avatar
May take a listen.

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